Andrew Oswald considers recent moves in economics, famously the most dismal of sciences, to take the happiness and psychological health of the population as seriously as a country’s GDP

My subject – economics – is becoming cheerier. You may have noticed from the newspapers that there is significant interest in the issue of how to measure human “happiness”, and that the prime minister, David Cameron, has asked government statisticians and economists to stop focusing so intently on gross domestic product (roughly, a simple count of how rich a country is) and to start collecting persuasive measures of national well-being and happiness.

Cameron has set us a complicated task. But social scientists have recently been doing a great deal of research on the topic. In my judgement, we have been getting somewhere. This research was not driven by a concern for “impact” in today’s sense. It was spurred by intellectual questions about how humans are, rather than any practical desire to alter our world – although the results may do just that.

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